Practical Information About Keeping, Breeding and Buying Dwarf Cichlids

Fish Profiles & Photos
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Apistogramma macmasteri

     Apistogramma macmasteri (A120 - A121) is a robust dwarf cichlid that has been kept by aquarists for many years. They are in the macmasteri group of Apistogrammas (for more information on A numbers and Apistogramma groups see our section on  Apistogramma).

Apistogramma macmasteri male    Apistogramma macmasteri male. This is an aquarium strain of A. macmasteri. Individuals of some aquarium strains are amazingly colorful.
     Apistogramma macmasteri was described by Dr. Sven Kullander in 1979 from fish that were collected in the Columbian state of Meta. The species was named for Mark Macmaster - a well known dwarf cichlid enthusiast who brought attention to the species in the early 1970's. The species is found in the waters of the upper River Orinoco throughout northern Columbia and nearby Venezuelan areas. Additional field collections are needed to fully understand the range of the species. Records of the first imports of the species are lost but it was likely established in the hobby in the 1960's and has been available since then.

      Many aquarists associate Apistogramma macmasteri with the brightly colored fish that are sometimes available from specialty sources. These aquarium strains are the result of many generations of selective breeding to achieve the brilliant red colors. Over the years, I have kept a few very colorful strains of wild Apistogramma macmasteri but generally the wild strains are not as vividly colored.  

Male Apistogramma macmasteriWild male Apistogramma macmasteri

        Its likely that most A. macmasteri are actually sold to aquarists as Apistogramma viejita. This persistent mis-identification has been going on for years and shows no sign of vanishing. The fish that are widely available as A. viejita are usually aquarium strains of A. macmasteri or a related hybrid. There are some who believe
it likely that Apistogramma macmasteri has been interbred with Apistogramma viejita to produce these very colorful fish. It seems that true viejita are rarely (perhaps never) imported.

       Its not unusual for Apistogramma macmasteri to show up on the lists of importers and specialty fish dealers and aquarium forms are widely available as European imports and from domestic breeders. Wild A. macmasteri are often available from South American exporters on a seasonal basis. The wild fish are often juveniles and actual fish that arrive can be any of a number of macmasteri type species that includes A. sp. rotpunkt and A. alacrina as well as A. macmasteri. Each of these other species are excellent dwarfs in their own right but be aware that if you order wild A. macmasteri you make actually receive a similar species.

Apistogramma macmasteri female guarding eggsApistogramma macmasteri female guarding her eggs

      Both wild and aquarium bred Apistogramma macmasteri make excellent aquarium residents provided you satisfy their needs. They can be aggressive so lots of cover is recommended. I have seen macmasteri form very strong pair bonds that last through multiple spawnings. However, I have also seen lots of pairs with a very shaky relationship. In fact, on one occasion I had a male eliminate the female before the fry became free swimming. After the female was gone he took over the larval fry and became an excellent parent raising the fry until I separated them. He raised nearly 50 fry in that spawn and later proved to be an excellent pair-bonded father with a different female.
Apistogramma macmasteri female Apistogramma macmasteri female

      Apistogramma macmasteri is a robust dwarf cichlid that and full grown males can reach nearly 4 inches in length. Females are correspondingly large and mature females can be larger than adult males of some Apisto species. They are generally easy to feed and are relatively undemanding. Follow the basic instructions in our Aquarium Care section.

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